Rebecca Leonardi (a PhD student at the University of Stirling) has developed Paws for Progress, the UK’s first prison-based dog training programme, in collaboration with the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) and the University of Stirling.
Development began in July 2009 and, after extensive research, consultation and training, the project got underway in HM YOI Polmont in August 2011.
During the pilot phase (August – December 2011), the intervention and research design continued to be developed in response to the needs of the participating young people and dogs, and feedback from participants, staff and management teams.
This responsiveness to need and feedback has continued to be a key factor, influencing our development as a service provider:
- In partnership with Fife College, Paws for Progress has pioneered the student led approach to learning, contextualising education within topics which are both relevant and enjoyable to our students.
- Similarly, Paws for Progress was an early adopter of peer mentoring, providing both peer support for our new students and opportunities for our continuing students to progress and advance their skills further.
Paws for Progress plays a unique and independent role, working strategically and operationally to co-ordinate input across multiple disciplines and manage relationships with three key partners (SPS, the University of Stirling and Fife College) and many more supporting organisations (currently 13 – see ‘About Paws in Polmont’).
While we are indebted to all our partners and supporting agencies who help us to deliver positive change in the lives of both people and animals, we are the only agency that focuses equally on all the aspects that make the dog training programme at HM YOI Polmont so successful.
Paws for Progress CIC
Paws for Progress was incorporated as a Community Interest Company * (CIC) limited by guarantee in February 2014 (SC469108), to build on the overwhelming success of the pilot project.
Our aim is “to enhance the well-being of people and animals by promoting and supporting, by whatever means, positive and effective interactions between them”.
There are 11 talented and enthusiastic Directors on the Board including Rebecca Leonardi as Founding Director and Richard Tuckley as Chairman.
The CIC’s initial priorities are to continue to deliver a successful dog training programme in HM YOI Polmont and to provide enhanced support on release so that young men who have been on the dog training programme can put their skills and experience to good use.
We are delighted to continue working in partnership with SPS / Fife College, and the University of Stirling, where we’re based.
We will employ a Course Instructor and a Support Officer to work with our key partners and supporting organisations delivering the dog training programme in HM YOI Polmont and maximising support for young offenders on release.
In the coming months, our team will be working hard to deliver even more impact from our work inside the prison and in the community (e.g. by increasing the number and range of opportunities for participants).
We are keen to expand our services further in other custodial settings, schools and in the community through developing partnerships and services with an even wider range of agencies. Wherever possible, we will provide opportunities for Paws for Progress graduates from HM YOI Polmont within this work, again strengthening connections with the community on release.
We will work closely with the new and exciting Stirling Human-Animal Interactions Research (SHAIR) Centre to ensure that all new developments are rigorously evaluated.
* A CIC is a recognised legal structure for social enterprises in the UK – CICs are regulated by Companies House and the CIC Regulator.